Sunday, April 26, 2015

Iron Town: Fierro, New Mexico

I might as well stop saying that I’m going to post more often because the more I say it the less I actually post. Maybe I’ll just say that I would like to post more often and leave it at that. Could this be seen as a quality over quantity issue instead? Well, whatever the case, after a couple quiet months let’s finally pay a visit to Fierro, New Mexico, in the southwestern part of the state, a few miles due east of Pinos Altos. For a true ghost town, it’s still got a good number of buildings which, while certainly falling, aren’t completely down and out yet, and it has plenty of lonely charm. All you’re likely to hear while exploring is the occasional sound of wood scraping tin when the breeze picks up and maybe the caw of a crow or two flying overhead.

Fierro is an archaic form of hierro, the Spanish word for “iron,” and iron is the reason the town was born in the first place. The mining history goes back to 1841, when Sofio Henkle (or Hinkle), a German immigrant living in Mexico, went looking for copper deposits. He found both copper and iron on a mountain a few miles north of the big copper mine in Santa Rita and named the mountain and its new mine Hanover, after his former home. The town just a couple miles south of Fierro would also be called Hanover (we’ll go there next time).

Henkle, however, was soon driven out by Apaches and lucky to escape with his life; he’d been warned of an imminent attack by a friendly Apache woman. Henkle returned years later after New Mexico became a U.S. Territory, believing that he’d be alright now that the army was guarding mines. But then the Civil War required most Federal soldiers to head east and Apaches and Confederates started raiding. So Henkle gave up for good and lived the rest of his life in the Mesilla Valley to the south.

As the 19th century wound down, with the threat of Apache raids gone, and the railroad already having arrived at Silver City—about 15 miles southwest—by the early 1880’s, Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) took an interest in the iron ore deposits of Fierro. A post office was established in 1899, about when the railroad reached Fierro itself, and as much as ten carloads of ore started getting shipped out each day to Pueblo, Colorado, where CF&I were based.

(Above is a home I believe was originally owned by the Bacon family and then the Drakes. Its last owners were the Araujo family, who rented it out.)

The population of Fierro was 750 in 1920 and probably never much over 1,000, even during the peak years between WWI and the start of the Great Depression, by which point six million tons of iron had come from Fierro’s mines. Seventy-eight percent of Fierro’s population was of Mexican descent in 1920, and that percentage increased, reaching the high nineties once the mines closed.

The mines shut down in 1931, although the large Continental Mine ran intermittently and, tragically, in 1947 four miners were killed near it in a “short fuse” accident. While the Cobre Mining Company resumed operations, now with an emphasis on copper, and some residents stayed at least into the 1990’s, Fierro never recovered from the economic blows of the early 1930’s, when people began to leave quickly, many for gold mines in California.

The Gilchrist and Dawson Store, Mrs. Rel’s Rooming House, Filiberto’s Variety Store, McCoy’s Store and post office, John Oglesby’s silent movie house, Sheriff Mac Minter’s pool room; these places were frequented by the miners and their families. Now they’re all gone. Some of them burned in a fire in 1923 when a miner from Mogollon went to sleep at Mrs. Rel’s following a fandango next door and kicked over a kerosene lamp in his room. Without a fire department, and with some buildings even having sidewalks made of wood, much of Fierro’s early commercial district burned fast.

(Below is the Phoenix Mercantile (aka La Tienda del Finicas), which even sold fine furniture. Later it became Araujo’s Grocery and housed the post office. Sitting on the steps waiting for the mail was a common pastime in Fierro.)

Another building of interest is the little jail by the railroad tracks, near the arroyo that runs through the town (pictured below). In Black Range Tales, James McKenna recalled visiting Fierro in the 1880’s and noted that mining towns punished wrongdoers by tying them to a thick log which had been sunk in the earth with eight feet remaining above ground. Normally prisoners would be released once they’d sobered up and/or calmed down. That could easily take all night. Fierro reportedly did away with its log in the early years, even though the sturdy concrete jail probably never held any true desperadoes.

Fierro was known for its love of baseball, with three different fields being used during the town’s history. In the late 1930’s, the team went by the seemingly unusual name “Peru Miners.” Basketball was also popular, with games being played on the school’s dirt court until it was paved in the 1930’s. Fierro even had a Boy Scout troop as late as the 1940’s.

One interesting tradition in Fierro was El dia de las Travesuras, The Day of Pranks, which was a replacement for Halloween. On that night there was no trick-or-treating in Fierro. Instead, kids played pranks, the most common of which was to tip over outhouses. One man spent a night in his outhouse with a shotgun to prevent any hi-jinks, only to have his bathroom toppled anyway when he went back to his house at 2AM for a quick cup of coffee. This never happened to the managers of CF&I as they had indoor plumbing and even electricity. Later, it’s said that a popular prank was swapping around railroad and highway signs, which might cause problems regardless of income bracket.

While Fierro is a ghost town now, two places that are very much alive are St. Anthony’s Mission Catholic Church (above), built in 1916 and later enlarged, and, ironically enough, the cemetery, which covers four acres and is lovingly maintained these days. Aside from regular services, a celebration and mass is still held each year on June 13th, the Feast of St. Anthony, and many of those for whom Fierro remains important meet to reminisce and once again walk the quiet streets of the old place.

AUGUST 2017 UPDATE: A Facebook page has been started to document the history of Fierro and the lives of its residents, both through photos and stories. If you're interested in Fierro I highly recommend giving it a look and a "like." The page can be found HERE. As if that wasn't enough, a wonderful photo video showing much of Fierro as it looks today can be found HERE on You Tube. A second video, focused on the shrine behind St. Anthony's Church, is HERE.

Some information for this post came from "New Mexico’s Best Ghost Towns," “Ghost Towns Alive,” and "The Place Names of New Mexico," but the best place to learn about Fierro is “Remembering Fierro (Again) (Revised Edition)” by Frank Ramirez. It’s not very often that an out-of-the-way ghost town has an entire book dedicated to it, but I’m certainly pleased on the rare occasions when it happens. Mr. Ramirez passed away in 2011 and this post is dedicated to him.

Next time we’ll go back just a couple miles south and check out Hanover, NM. (Well, after this little POSTSCRIPT on the graffiti of Fierro.)


CoastConFan said...

I visited Silver City a good number of times over the years, but never went over to Fierro, so thanks for the write up and the photos. Your post was excellent as usual. You might visit another ghost town of much greater age nearby, the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. That is different kind of ghost town, but one worthy of your blog, although a bit offbeat. You could say it was the great grandfather of ghost towns in that area.

jmhouse said...

Glad you liked the post, CoastConFan! Thanks for saying so. You know, I have been to the Gila Cliff Dwellings "ghost town" but don't have all that many photos. I *should* return and work something up for City of Dust. I've also been toying with doing a post or two on the Salinas Pueblo Missions ruins in central NM. JM

It's all about ME... said...

This is the town where my grandfather was born.
He passed away in 2011. He and his siblings would tell us kids stories of this much family "history" here. Thanks for sharing pictures. Hopefully one day I will be bale to visit.

jmhouse said...

Thanks for your comment, It's all about ME...! It's always wonderful to hear from people with family connections to these places. I think you'd find a visit to Fierro very enriching. It's not too difficult to get to, although it might actually be a shorter drive from El Paso than Albuquerque.

Please give us a report if you make the trip someday! JM

It's all about ME... said...

I plan is on my bucket list. said...

It was nice to read your blog about Fierro! My mother was born there and it was nice to share the story with her. My mother was born in Fierro in 1930 and her father, Jesus Melgoza Galvan, owned the first "Mexican" general store in Fierro. Her father owned stores in Hanover, Fierro and Central (Santa Clara) when my mother was a child. Frank Ramirez, whom you cite in your blog as author of the book, "Remembering Fierro (Again)(Revised Edition) was my mother's nephew. Frank's parents, Maria Galvan Ramirez and Antonio Ramirez operated the Fierro store for a time until my grandfather closed the store and reopened in Central. My mother recalls that the stores were each called "La Mexicana" and operated until my grandfathers death around 1947 or 1948. Thank you for helping me take a walk down "memory" lane with my 85 year old mother. It did us both good!

jmhouse said...

Steve, thanks for your comment. It made my day to hear that you and your mother were able to remember Fierro together! All the information you shared as new to me and I'm glad you passed it along. Do you know whereabouts in Fierro "La Mexicana" was located? I wonder if I'd be able to picture the general area.

Thanks again! JM

John said...

Nice to hear about Fiero & see old pictures. I spent all my summers there as a child. My grandfather Juan Manuel Araujo owned the Araujo Store. I have great memories of picking out cereals and getting our ice cream from the store. We got to pick out our school clothes from the store too when our vacation was over. My parents got married at St. Anthony's and I loved to go back & see the murals of St. Michael. I have such great memories of Fiero.

jmhouse said...

It's always great to hear from someone with ties to Fierro. That's fantastic that your grandfather owned the Araujo Store! Fierro must have been a truly wonderful place as everyone I've heard from that knew the town has nothing but the warmest memories of it. I hope I keep hearing those memories. Thanks for sharing yours, John! JM

Unknown said...

I'm planning to visit fierro in the next couple of weeks.. actually on thanksgiving week.. does anyone know if there will be any local offices open at that time, my grandparents lived there in the 1930's

jmhouse said...

Thanks for your comment, Unknown. That's wonderful that your grandparents lived in Fierro in the 1930's. I think you'll really enjoy visiting the area. There is no one living in Fierro at all now, and no functioning businesses. However, if your trip Thanksgiving week coincides with a service at St. Anthony's Mission Catholic Church you might be able to speak to some former residents, perhaps even someone that knew your grandparents. There are people living in Hanover, but the post office is about the only local service I can recall. They're in the old train depot. You might consider going to Bayard (not the fort, but the town) and/or Hurley just to the south. You may want to stop by the JW Art Gallery in Hurely, in particular, as they have a great selection of books about the region and know some of the history. Beyond that, I guess Silver City is your best bet for information.

Thanks again, and have a fantastic trip! JM

Carmen Hinostroza said...

Thank you so much for your information. .I was told that my grandfather's name is in the history of fierro and that he opened roads. I can't wait to visit

jmhouse said...

Carmen Hinostroza, have you got a copy of "Remembering Fierro (again): Revised Edition" by Frank Ramirez? You may well find a mention of your grandfather in that book as it covers a lot of the town's history and includes many names. The only place I'm sure that it's available is at the JW Art Gallery in Hurley, NM, which I mentioned previously.

Enjoy your visit! JM

Carmen Hinostroza said...

No JM i haven't. . I need to search for it! I'm very excited about the trip. I found out that on Friday after thankiving local offices are going to be open in Bayar New mexico

jmhouse said...

That's great that the Bayard city offices will be open, Carmen. Should be a wonderful time. Hopefully the weather holds down there. Please give us a report on what you find if you get a chance!


Carmen Hinostroza said...

Well I finally got to visit fierro! I was amazed.. took some pictures..and I really like the geographic of the town.. I could see my self living kids really enjoyed it..everything was close pretty much so we went bayard to the Catholic Church and found some info..I had order the book of remembering fierro again but unfortunately Mr Frank Ramirez had already past away n so they return my letter with the money order that I had sent.later I found out that they have the book at the museum in silver city. .I really would like to have one of my own.

jmhouse said...

I'm glad you made it to Fierro, Carmen! It's a peaceful location, isn't it? That's too bad that Frank Ramirez passed away. I didn't know that. So, the Wade Gallery was out of "Remembering Fierro (again)"? Hmm, that's the only place I knew to get it. Perhaps there are book stores in Silver City besides the museum that can track it down.

Anyway, a return trip to Fierro sounds like a good idea! JM

R Castillo said...

My mom was born there in 1922 daughter of Enrique Rodriguez and Dolores pay an Rodriguez he was a miner and my mom said helped to build the school which no longer exists close to the church we took her there and she showed us her house my grandfather built my grandmother Dolores and her two daughters clementina and Arnulfa are in the cemetery she would talk about the great times in Fierro and how the foremans and the owners of the mines lived in the nice part while the workers lived apart but she said those were good times I took her there in the 1980s and we still found people there that knew her as a child , one old lady in particular mrs Andazola a very old lady she was baptized in at Anthony's church

jmhouse said...

Thank you for sharing some of your family history, R Castillo. Do you know if your grandmother's home still stands? There are a few houses remaining around town, but not too many. I'd loved to have photographed the school.

The separation of the owners and workers is interesting. Of course, things got more heated in that regard just down the road in Hanover. Still, there are indeed lots of very fond memories of the area.

Thanks again! JM

Geri said...

I accidently "discovered" Fierro while out in that area looking for something else. I always carry my camera and took a few pix of the town and the profusion of wildflowers growing all through it. There's not much left standing as Nature reclaims the land but the area is so serene. I would like to go back and explore the cemetery as I always feel a cemetery can tell some stories about what went on before. Enjoyed your blog...btw have you ever checked out the ghost towns of Shakespeare (Lordsburg) and Steins(about 15 miles west on Lordsburg on Hwy 10)? Happy Trails, G

jmhouse said...

Fierro is pretty awesome, isn't it, Geri?! I'd like to photograph it with all the wildflowers we've got blooming now, too. The cemetery is definitely worth a look.

As for Shakespeare, I haven't visited yet because the one time I was there they were closed. I've been trying to get back on a day when they've been open ever since. That's years now. But I have indeed been to Steins and did a blog post on it a while back. Steins recent history is tragic, but you can read about it HERE.

Thanks for stopping by City of Dust! JM

Ms Mimbreno said...

Do you know what year the school was built? I've had some of the oak flooring in my house that we built 30 years ago in nearby Mimbres. We bought it as a pile of firewood and reclaimed it.

jmhouse said...

That's a good question, Ms Mimbreno! The best resource by far on Fierro is "Remembering Fierro (again)-Revised Edition" by Frank Ramirez. There is a reference in that book to a "big school" with a basement containing rest rooms (for staff; students used outhouses) and heating units. A Ms. Wellborn says she attended this school in 1916. The book contains a photo of the school, which is indeed quite large. Elsewhere there is mention of schooling in Fierro starting about 1910, with classes at first being held in buildings around town.

So, if your oak flooring came from the "big school" I think it would date somewhere between 1910 and 1916. However, I'm just piecing dates together and could always be wrong. Maybe somebody else will be able to add more information.

In any case, I'm so happy you salvaged that flooring and didn't use it for firewood!! That old wood is wonderful. I know someone that has some of the Cedarvale train depot as their kitchen floor!

Thanks for stopping by City of Dust! JM

Carmen Hinostroza said...

Well I had the pleasure to visit Fierro again.. this time I was able to bring my mom.. she was amazed by it.. I took pictures and we also walked thru the cementery.. is very interesting! My mom said she remembers my grandmother talking about when she lived there and where her children would played..they moved out in 1930 my grandmother past away in 1982 I don't think she ever went back to fierro eventhough she lived in Bayard the rest of her life.

jmhouse said...

I'm thrilled to hear that you were able to return to Fierro, and this time with your mother! That must have been a wonderful trip. I'd like to return myself sometime soon.

And thanks for sharing some of your family's history in the town. I'm very pleased to have it recorded here at City of Dust! JM

Robert said...

Greetings to you all. I have had a real interest just for a week now. Yet, I have always heard stories of Fierro.

My connection is via the Martinez family, Augustin and Apolonia. They have 12 children that lived there.

My mother was not born there but lived there for a number of years in her youth.

I was contacted by a person who lives in NM..after reading a post I made on the RockyMountainProfiles. She was curious about the grotto behind the church and since I didn't know anything about it..I asked my mother. But she had very little knowledge about it.

Cookie, the person who contacted me, has a huge interest in Fierro. She is a master sleuth and documents that my mother has has shed some light on the grotto and its contents. I am hoping to learn a lot more.
Cookie and her family have been incredibly generous with me and has shared all of her photos. Soon, I will be posting a video with original music on Youtube.

I have other connections with Fierro...a cousin of mine possess the keys to St. Anthony's church. She is a member of the committee that maintains the church.

My wife and I are planning to move to Colorado in 2018. My mother is 91 and God willing...I will be able to visit Fierro and pay homage to it and all the former inhabitants. What an incredible group of people.
Well thats all for now...

Robert Velasquez email

jmhouse said...

Robert, thanks very much for your message! Are you referring to the grotto that's behind the church and contains the life-sized "La Pieta" statue? I'm afraid I don't know much about it either. St. Anthony's was built in 1916 and, after comparing a photo of the church taken just after construction with a more recent shot, I think it's possible the shrine/grotto was there in 1916. However, it is a little hard to tell, so don't quote me on that!

There is a publication called "Remembering Fierro (again) - Revised edition" by Frank Ramirez that I think you would enjoy. However, it's not easy to find these days, so some more sleuthing might be required!

Thanks again, and I hope you will be able to visit Fierro soon! JM

syn707 said...


First of all, my post was not my first. However, the one I placed on your page was really for my mother's benefit.

But recently, I have caught Fierro fever.

I have heard three time frames regarding the grotto. I asked my mom about it but, I would say she doesn't really know. As she left Fierro when she was a young girl.

Because of my much earlier post, I was contacted by someone very much interested in Fierro. She is fortunate in that she lives in Silver City. She wanted to know when the grotto was built. My mother is a dues paying member of the Fierro Preservation Association and she had a few of the newsletters in her possession. She contacted the chairperson, Thelma, who thought the grotto may have been built in the 1950s. But it didn't seem she was very positive about that.

Cookie, who contacted me, also wanted to know about the Pieta. I made a comment to her that for all the interest in the town, and what I have heard about the church...and now the grotto, that there were very few photographs of the Pieta and the inside of the church. Or, even the St. Anthony's Festival online. Although I can't say I have done extensive searching...but enough that something should have popped up.

Thru Thelma at the Fierro Preservation Association, Cookie found out that the Pieta was brought to Fierro by a priest named Father Aull. She also learned that there was a book about Father Aull and she has secured borrowing it. So maybe there will be more info about the Pieta.

Cookie and her husband and daughter have shared most of their photos with me. I am currently creating a slideshow and original music to accompany the video. It will be a couple of weeks until it is completed.

My great grandparents were Augustin and Apolonia Martinez. In the last 70s I was not able to attend a family reunion there. My mother tells me they has a special mass for the family at St. Anthony's and then a picnic perhaps in Hanover.

I regret to say, that for some reason, my grandmother and mother, who both raised my sister and I, didn't make much effort to keep closer ties with the Martinez clan. So I don't know them really, but I feel in my search for more information, I may be creating new bonds ...

enough for now...
RObert Velasquez

syn707 said...


Do you know of any site where there is a large collection of photos of Fierro?


jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

As sad as it is, I think this blog post is the largest collection of photos of Fierro to be found in one place on the internet, and, of course, there are only eight shots here. I did take more pictures during my visit and you'd be welcome to use those if you were interested. Just let me know. However, I have no other photos of the church or grotto.

Otherwise, "New Mexico's Best Ghost Towns: A Practical Guide" by Philip Varney contains two large photos of Fierro, probably from the late 1970's. One is of McCoy's Store and post office, the other of the buildings by the railroad tracks. Linda G. Harris's "Ghost Towns Alive: Trips to New Mexico's Past" contains a shot of some abandoned homes, probably taken around 2000.

Of course, the best source remains "Remembering Fierro (again)-Revised edition" by Frank Ramirez. Is there any chance one of your contacts would have a copy? There are many, many photos, both historical and contemporary, including pictures of the inside of the church and La Pieta. You might try contacting the WadeJWART Gallery, which is where I got my copy. However, while they used to be found just down the road in the Old Hurley Store, the owners moved to St. Louis and now the store houses model trains.

Incidentally, "Remembering Fierro" lists the names of everyone mentioned in the book. I did not find an Augustin or Apolonia Martinez, only an Augustin Ramirez and Apolonia Téllez. However, there are many other Martinez's mentioned.

Best of luck, and get in touch if I can offer any further help! JM

syn707 said...


Thank you for your reply.

I do have both editions of Frank Ramirez's books as well as Celia Reyes. I've read them long ago, but now, I will scour them for information.

You are correct, my great grandparents, Augustin and Apolonia Martinez are not in Mr. Ramirez's books, But several of their children, my mother's aunts and uncles are.

I thank you for your offer of the photos. I do not thing my current video project will be my last. I have a song I wrote as a tribute to my incredible grandmother that I will include, but the music is going to be more like a soundtrack..with dynamics and building drama.

I am going to look at sites or even a Facebook that a complete tribute to Fierro and as many photos of it I can place on it.

I have several family ties that are directly involved with the church and I am just now scratching the surface in obtaining information from them.
Also, As I have stated earlier, I am "working" with a woman from Silver City who is researching about the grotto and the Pieta inside. I shared with her yesterday your thoughts on the dating of the indicating it was built at the time or close to the time the church was built. She replied that the door way is to small to accommodate the Peita and perhaps the grotto was built around it. Speculation to be sure...but she is gathering more information and I assume she is very good at it as she is a librarian.

I wished a copy of Frank Ramirez's book could be placed on the permission would be a must of course. Just a thought.

I am hoping to visit the area next year sometime after a move to Colorado which would bring me closer to Fierro.

That's it for, I've got the fever LOL


jmhouse said...

Hey Robert,

Sounds like you do have the fever! Well, there are worse fevers than Fierro!

Anyway, could you possibly send me the name of that book by Celia Reyes? I have not heard of that one and am curious about it. Thanks!

I hope you find lots of good info and please keep us posted!


syn707 said...

Good Day John!

yes, I got it bad LOL!

That book I mentioned is titled,

"Ghost Town Memoirs" by Celia Reyes.

It was published thru Cantus Quercus Press
1275 Hendrix Avenue
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

Phone - 805-497-0400

I found a website but it takes me to an Asian site.

But I found this information..which makes more sense.

ATTENTION: Publisher and web site temporarlily not available, due to the death of Wilbur Skeels; meanwhile, contact Graham Lack:

Today I am visiting my mother. Together I will try to get information regarding the grotto, the Pieta, and a cross my grandfather made and put up on a hill. It might be the one covered with stucco closest to the church...

jmhouse said...

Thanks, Robert! I'd never heard of Celia Reyes' "Ghost Town Memoirs: 'Fierro Will Shine': Growing Up in a New Mexico Mining Town, 1925-1945"! Wow. Not easy to track down on-line after a quick search, but I'll see what I can do.

If you get a Fierro Facebook page and/or website up please let me know and I'll publicize it via my vast City of Dust social media presence (ha!).


Crystal Villalobos said...

Hi Robert &John-
I got to borrow Celia's book from a sister library in California. It's informative- but does not have as much information as the "Remembering Fierrro" publication (which my parents have a copy of)

syn707 said...


I do have it in my mind to create a location for everything Fierro. Its taken me 67 years to show any interest LOL. As soon as I decide where to create it...I will share it with you..and thank you for that idea. Man this is fun.

I can't wait to move to Colorado. I won't be that far...and my wife spent a little time growing up in Las Cruces and she wants to visit there.

Had a great talk with my mom. Another thing I would like to do, is create a map of where "things" were. She was able to outline a simple one of where the church sits along Fierro Road and where the school was. The cemetery was on the other side of my great grandmother's home. My mom called it the country inn.

She still has one living aunt who was born and lived in Fierro until about 1962. My mother is going to call her and ask her about the cross behind the church. She had an envelope filled with photos and I found two great clear ones of the St. Anthony statue inside the grotto, and a photo of the cross behind the church. So far, what information I have "indicates" this is the cross my grandfather made and took up to a hill there. My mother called the hill, Cerro De La Cruz.

Another aspect of this, and there are many, is the annual St. Anthony's Festival held in Fierro ever year towards the end of June. Another mystery as to why there aren't any photos of it. My mother said they used to carry the Pieta...up and around the hillside. Which makes me wonder about something Cookie (the person I am working with and saw my original post years ago) had told me. That the doorway to the grotto was too small to accommodate the statue being installed after the grotto was built.

Enough for now...I am in the "every time I get a question answered, it opens up ten more questions" stage of this quest.

Thank you again John.

Robert Oh by the my jabbering on here like I have been, taking up bandwith...or hogging attention or anything else? Please let me know...I'm tough...and will keep it sparse if need be.

syn707 said...

Greetings, yes, its me. Again!

I've been on a quest primarily for two pieces of information. When was the grotto built..and where is the cross that my grandfather made and with the help of one of his brother in laws, carried it to the top of the hill called, Cerro De La Cruz (Hill of the Cross).

While visiting my mom this week, she haphazardly said that our cousin Virgina (Peres) Delgado, had some information about when the grotto was built. On an end table my mother has had a book report type of 'book" that Virginia wrote called, "My Remembrances of Fierro." I was looking thru Frank Ramirez's first edition when I thought about Virginia's story. So I read thru that..and sure enough, at the end she states that her family finally moved from Fierro to southern California in 1949 and that the grotto was built soon after that time. This makes her writing the first documentation of the grotto's beginning.

When I was first reading Mr. Ramirez's book that day, on page 5, under a photo of the church, he states that you can see the cross nest to the shrine behind the church. The cross used to be on the hill named, Cerro De La Cruz. This is the hill my mother would always tell me in her stories about the cross her father made and put up. Well, in Virginia's story, she also tells about it. And how the Martinez family would always care for it by painting it and that my grandmother and mother in California, would send money to buy paint to maintain it.

Solid evidence on both the grotto and the cross? Perhaps not...but its the best information that I have found so far.

You mentioned photos that may have shown the grotto soon after the church was built. Could you point me in the direction to those photos? I sure would appreciate it.


jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

That is great information! Thanks for sharing it! As for photos of the Feast of St. Anthony on June 13th, there are two shots on pages 37 and 38 of "Remembering Fierro (again)." I think there might be significant differences between the two editions of "Remembering Fierro" as far as page numbering and photographs.

On that note, scratch what I said about it looking like the grotto was there when the church was built. I was looking at the photos on page 34 of the revised edition and thought that what is more likely a room or even a transept, which you can see to the left, was the grotto. However, the photos on page 42 have since refreshed my memory.

Now, of some additional interest on page 42 is the photo of the cross next to the grotto, which has to be the cross you're referring to. Although it's said that it stood atop Cerro Grande. Well, there are a lot of cerros out there! I wish I had a picture of the cross from my visit in late 2014, but I checked and I'm afraid I don't.

Anyway, I think you're definitely on the trail! And don't worry about using up bandwidth. There's bandwidth to spare here and I'm always pleased when City of Dust can be a repository for all sorts of information about these places.

By the way, I love that your mom called the cemetery The Country Inn. It is quite a nice cemetery and I do have pictures of some of *those* crosses!

Thanks again! JM

syn707 said...

Thank you for your message Jim.

I may have made an error about the cemetery and the name. I should have said, some where near the cemetery, my grandmother's family lived in what they called the country inn. Not that the cemetery was ever called that by them.

I asked my mother, 91 years old this year, to try and describe what a person would see entering into Fierro. It was uncanny how accurate she was in all but one thing. She described the cemetery as being on the northern part of town, where this inn stood. And everything I have seen or read, indicates the cemetery at the entrance to town off to the right. There's even a road there named Fierro Cemetery Road. That is something I'll dig for to see if the cemetery was ever moved. I doubt it.

As for the cross, Yes, from maps and "Remembering Fierro", there are many cerros. But my family has been maintain that particular cross for decades. So far, two of them say it was on Cerro De La Cruz. But I just do not accept evidence as such. So my search continues.

I have to keep in mind, 80 plus years have passed since my mother lived there...but, she is one sharp cookie LOL

I'll be back lol

syn707 said...

One more for the road..

I just looked on a map...and it turns out, my mother was right about the cemetery being on the north end of town. East of the railroad tracks.

I don't know what I was looking at yesterday but I am seeing something totally different.

I wonder if any of the foundation of the so called 'country inn' exists.

I am hoping that we can visit the area next year. I still have many relatives there I have never met and at least one person who lives in Silver City who inspired me to begin this journey.


syn707 said...


and you thought I was done LOL.

I looked for page 42, and yes, on page 42 of the revised edition, it does state the cross was on Cerro Grande. On page 53 of the original edition, it also shows that photo and it states the same thing, the cross being on top of Cerro Grande.

Yet, on page 5 of the original edition, and on page 4 of the revised one, it has a photo and stated the cross was on Cerro De La Cruz.

In the caption of all photos, and both editions, he describes the cross as being behind the shrine. I may be wrong, but I think only one cross stands right behind the grotto. So I don't know where the discrepancy lies. There is another cross standing across from the church towards the southwest across an open area...(parking lot?)

syn707 said...


You're going to love this. In Celia Reyes book, it shows the grotto with a cross...and she states it was on top of Hanover Peak.


jmhouse said...

Hmm. Well, uh, is there any chance the cross was moved from Cerro Grande to Cerro de la Cruz? Maybe Hanover Peak is another name for Cerro Grande. The map on page 10 of the revised edition of Ramirez's book shows Cerro de la Cruz to the north of the Hanover Mine, but the other names and locations aren't exactly clear, are they?

Also, to be clear about something else, I'm considering the grotto and the shrine to be the same place. There aren't two locations, are there? It's been a few years since I've been out there, so I might be getting it wrong.

Finally, as for the cemetery, I believe it is to the east of what was "downtown" Fierro. I recall getting out of the car and walking east down the gravel road quite clearly. But perhaps it's north of where most people in Fierro lived. So...northeast?

I've got a hunch you're going to want to get out there soon and have a look for yourself to answer some of these questions! JM

syn707 said...


Thank you...your post did offer some great ideas. I am wrong about the cemetery. And I thought my mother was wrong. I was looking at a satellite image and just looked at it wrong. You and my mother are right. Amazing she remembers all these years. The cemetery IS on the east side...before you reach the church.

For now, I have no idea of where the cross my grandfather was originally placed. I am in communication with a resident of Silver City who is very interested in Fierro and I hope she will share information she obtains.

For me right now, I will be contacting relatives directly involved in maintaining the church, and with members of the Fierro Preservation Assoc. which maintain the cemetery.

This week, I will be contacting the person who holds the keys to the church. She is a relative. I have never spoken to her. In a way, you could say we have had contact. I sent her the story I wrote about my mother's growing up life which includes Fierro.

I think the exact same as you do, that the shrine and the grotto are the same place. You say that a map showing the hill named Cerro De La Cruz is named on it???

John, this is why people communicating together is soooo important. THANK YOU FOR THAT INFORMATION. I feel, that I am going to have to read the book over and over until I can quickly refer to it in my mind.

I think I need to slow down on here, gather my thoughts carefully and have a focus when I post here. If I were the host, I would think, "This guy is all over the place."

Cookie, who I am corresponding with seems to glean information from things I say or send her which I feel lack any pertinent information. Your last message was quite informative.


jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

I'm glad my last message was useful. I wouldn't worry too much about the host thinking you're all over the place. I think I've got you beat! I mean, after all, have you seen this sprawling blog?!

Please keep us posted on developments! JM

syn707 said...


I'd like to begin posting photos on here. Is there a size or format you prefer?

jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't allow photos to be included with comments. So, what I typically do is have folks send me the photos and text they'd like to contribute and then I add it directly to the bottom of the post as an update. A good example of that is THIS POST on Taiban, NM.

If you'd like to do that, you can e-mail me through the address associated with my profile. Just click on "view my complete profile" in the upper right of the page. Maybe once you have a group of photos and related information you could send it all my way and I'll do the rest.

Let me know if this plan might work! JM

syn707 said...

Thank you, John. That is very helpful and generous of you. I'll be sure to be minimal when I decide on what to send you.

I am having such a great time with exchanging messages with you and just trying to learn about Fierro.

This week I'll be getting phone numbers of two key relatives. One actually has the keys to St. Anthony's church in Fierro. The other, who lives in Calif. as I do, was born in Fierro. She has visited Fierro in not to distant times.

Thanks again

syn707 said...

Two things,
John, I have completed a video using photos taken/collected by a person who lives in Silver City. I've created original music for it. Can a link be Pravda here? If not, I will add it to my Facebook.

CRYSTAL, I just noticed your post. Forgive me. I've been so wrapped up in Fierro I failed to see if anyone else was posting. Contact me, you have email address.

Tomorrow I am gonna no to share information about the grotto/shrine behind St. Anthony's church and about the cross standing behind it.


syn707 said...


Here is a FB page I created. I am new to that site so it will take me awhile to get my "legs" there.

Here is the link.

I would like at some time, to include a link to your blog here.

Again, thank you for all you do.


jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

That's great that you've got the Fierro Facebook page up and running! Awesome! I added a link to an update toward the end of the post. Have a look above and let me know what you think. I would also be happy to share the link on the City of Dust Facebook page if you'd like me to.

As for the video, I can certainly provide a link to that within the update. No problem at all. Just say the word!

Again, nice work getting the Facebook page going so quickly!


syn707 said...


Hope you had a good weekend. Well, I told you I would write about the cross that stands behind the shrine/grotto so here it is. I'll try to keep it short.

After returning back from Globe, AZ, to Fierro, NM, my maternal grandparents, Inez and Librada Carrasco became quite ill. Both had different medical issues.

My grandfather made a promise to God, that he would make a large cross and place it on what they called, Cerro Grande (The Large Hill) and hope that his prayers would be answered. (at this time, I do not know what that promise was. In Frank Ramirez's book, he stated that his understanding was that my grandfather wanted to see his family in Mexico before he died)

The cross was large enough to require another person to help him carry it up the large hill. That person was my great uncle, Frederico Martinez (aka: Lico).

A few years later, my grandfather died. My grandmother recovered and the family maintained the cross until it was removed by a mining company. The cross was taken to St. Anthony's church as the parishioners wanted it.

The cross was constructed of wood, but when the church was refinished with stucco, the cross was covered with stucco as well.

I have many more details, all from living family members. I would like to find church records about the cross. So a visit to the area and Silver City is a must.

If anyone knows other information, I surely would appreciate you sharing it.
Robert Velasquez (

jmhouse said...

Thanks Robert! That's great info and I'm glad you were able to put it all together and post it here. I think the next thing is a trip to the Silver City area, eh? Have you been before? If not, you'll love it!

Thanks again, and keep us posted! JM

syn707 said...


I have never been there as an adult. When I was a toddler, my mother and grandmother took me so my grandmother's family could see me. There was one incident that I have heard a zillion times, even as recent as two weeks ago. My mother is 91 so she doesn't remember sharing it...many times! lol. Apparently, my grandmother kept turkeys, this would have been in the early 50's. I would walk around and pick up pine cones and rocks...and throw them at the turkeys. Well, the big Tom had enough of that and chased me. I guess he taught me who's boss! I had to be less than three years old.

And that's the only time I've been thru the area. But, I am planning on going. MY wife retires at the end of the year and we are planning a move to the western slope in Colorado. Since my wife did some growing up years in Las Cruces, I thought it would be a nice trip down memory lane to visit both places.

I have met, online, a resident of Silver City. She, her husband and daughter shared all the photos in my Youtube video. I know the college there is collecting information about Fierro. A cousin is currently 'the" or one of the caretakers of St. Anthony's church. Which her mother was as well. So you see, I have strong ties, even though my interest is very recent.

So I plan on visiting, and contributing to the church. My mother does this even now to help sponsor the annual St. Anthony's Festival, and something else they do late in the year: what that is I don't know...yet.)

syn707 said...


Not saying much in thus message. I do want to correct one thing in my last message. The turkeys belonged to my great grandmother.

Here is the link to my video about Fierro. I'll be making another focusing on the shrine and it's contents soon.

jmhouse said...

That's a wonderful video, Robert! Those photos cover quite a bit of Fierro as it is today and the video is a fantastic document. I took the liberty of adding a link to it in the update I created earlier. Just let me know if that's okay.

By the way, I saw that you composed, played, and recorded all the music in the video. I'm mighty impressed! Great stuff!

Keep up the good work! JM

syn707 said...


Seems like forever since I've posted here. I'm busy on many fronts.

Of course it's ok to place a link any place you choose. Thank you for that.

Here is a second video focusing on the shrine. It also begins bringing up the cross behind the shrine. I imagine the next video will be about the cross as I have gathered a lot more information since I first posted here.

Thank you for maintaining this blog. I only wished those who have posted would return and add more of what they know. Since I've started posting, I am now in contact with family members in New Mexico, became a dues paying member of the Fierro Preservation Association, sent DVDs to family and the wheel continues.


syn707 said...


Thank you very much for the compliments on the music. When you're inspired, things come easy.

I have many years under my belt as a musician and I am so happy to be able to apply it to something as wonderful as Fierro.

syn707 said...


Reading thru the posts, I recognize someone I know; Mr. R. Rodriguez. His family and mine have been close every since we were kids.

IN fact, I just dropped off DVDs of the first video I made for his family over at my moms today.

she gave me all the names he mentions which confirmed it was him.

My search continues for when the shrine behind St. Anthony's was built. My partner, who I have never met is leading the search as she lives in Silver City, or as it was called by many locals, San Vicente (St. Vincent).

Tomorrow I will write a lengthy story about a priest who may have been relat d to the shrine. He was an interesting character and a lot of drama followed him around

jmhouse said...

That's another excellent video, Robert. I added a link to that one in the update, as well.

It would appear that the Fierro ball is rolling and you're really starting to uncover some information!

Best Regards, JM

syn707 said...


Thank you for your. Kind words. I do try.

I am learning so much about Fierro. Any town, I now realize, large or even tiny, where ever people have lived, Hoyas a unique history. I have even learned things from my mother, about other families I am sworn to never share. I even mentioning Ned to my wife, she knows, about a conflict n my mind of whether to keep silent after she passes away and my wife said I should and gave me good will let the story die with us both.

jmhouse said...

Yes, absolutely, any place where people have lived has stories! That is a good motto for City of Dust! And those stories are usually at least interesting, if not truly important, yet they are easily lost. But, as you alluded to, there are occasions when some stories are best laid to rest. Such is life.

Keep up the excellent work! JM

syn707 said...

A few posts ago, John, I said I would write a story on her about a Father Aull...but a blog is probably not the place to do it. Not a short version. Maybe I'll try a short one...key points
I have to thank you for maintaining this site. I know it's not easy....or always fun.


syn707 said...

well, a lot has happened since I first came on here. I've learned an awful lot about Fierro. I think I even know a little more than some residents.

When I first came here, I was searching for when was the grotto/shring built, and who was responsible for its building. Where did the statue, the pieta come from?

I still have not found a definitive answer, and may never fine them. What follows is what I know.

My cousin, who was born in Fierro, says that in 1949, the grotto was not built. The treasurer for the Fierro Preservation Association "thinks" it was built in 1950. I have found a person who parents were from Fierro that his aunt told him, that the grotto was built in 1950. Now, my great aunt who was born in Fierro, states that when she left Fierro, the grotto was just being built, in 1957.

When I first came here, it was believed that a priest names Roger Aull, was connected with the grotto. Well, he died in 1948. I have read about him so much that I can recite his biography by memory. Which I have done on my Facebook page. I thought he had built the grotto since it resembled his chapel in Santa Clara (Central) and San Lorenzo.

Its believed that many items were removed from his chapel..either given or taken by the Catholic church. Its possible, that the pieta statue may have come from his chapel.
The book written about Father All was written by an Anthony Caporaso. My research partner has read this book, but its all about the therapeutic machine Aull invented. No mention of the grotto is in it.

Today, I contacted the sister of Celia Reyes, author of the book, "Ghost Town Memoirs" and we talked a little. I am sure I overwhelmed her with my knowledge and passion about Fierro. She asked me to give her my phone number and email address and she would pass it on to her sister, Celia. I pray that she knows something about the grotto.

I could write for days about FIerro..and I have never even been there..unless being taken there when I was 2 counts. lol

jmhouse said...

That is a very interesting timeline. I haven't come across anything like that before! I guess the plot is really thickening as to the question of the construction of the grotto/shrine. Father Aull likely had no involvement in the placement of the Pietà OR the building of the grotto, eh? Hmmm. Well, there's a real mystery! I bet Father Aull's "therapeutic machine" might also be a bit of a mystery!

Well, as always, thank you! And best of luck with the continued sleuthing. I can't think of anyone that should visit Fierro, NM more than you right about now, Robert!

Thanks again! JM

syn707 said...

As far as Fr. Aull’s machine, there is no mystery at all John.

When he moved from the northeast on the advice of his doctor, (he was exposed to gas in WWI and his prognosis was he didn’t have long to live) he met a mine owner. He told Fsther a Aull that it was remarkable that none of his workers suffered any respiratory illnesses, not even colds. He thought it had to do with static electricity in the mine releasing sulphuric gas in the rock. With this in mind he created a machine that did the same thing, and people would breath the gas via a little no tube. I just learned my grandmother received treatments from this machine in what used to be called Ojos Caliente, now called Faywood, NM.

People came far and near testifying to it cure. It was called the Halox therapeutic Generator. Before long they had treatment clinics all over the unites states. A book was written about Fsther Aull and this machine.

So far, the first documented mention of him coming to New Mexico is 1919. . He died in 1948. Somehow, the statue was given by him to a Fr. Smerke in Fierro. It was written that they were great friends. But this is not substantiated. Supposedly Fr. Smerke began offering services at St. Anthony’s church in Fierro in 1950. How could Fr. Aull give the statue to Smerke or to the church or Smerke before he died in 1948?
I have talked to many former residents of a Fierro or their children, no one remembers when the shrine was built. It seems very odd to me, that the Fierro Preservation Association knows nothing of this, n my opinion, HUGE event. In this little mining town, where the church is the biggest social gathering place, that this gorgeous beautiful statue, would be given to the church, where the parishioners built the shrine to house this life sized statue, that no one can recall much of anything about it. To me, it would be like the Beatles coming to town.

I have found, granddaughter and the daughter in law of the Fierro School principal on FB. Her husband helped build the shrine and donated materials for it, this is documented in the Silver City Daily unknown.

I explained my research so the granddaughter texted her mother of my interest..and now I wait. Surely, she must know something. I’m still waiting for Celia Reyes, author of, Ghost Town Memoirs - Fierro Will Rise, to call me.

By the way, the chapels and grounds plus 45 acres that used to belong to Fr. Aull in Santa Clara (now named Central) is up for sale.


jmhouse said...

Well, there's at least a *little* mystery to inhaling sulfuric gas! I came across this statement in some court proceedings: "During the latter part of 1947, the federal government's Pure Food and Drug Administration began an investigation regarding the Halox machine." But the case was actually regarding money a former partner alleged was owed him by Father Aull, who had died by then. Aull's estate won in the end. An interesting and unexpected side story there!

If you think it might be worthwhile, I could ask on the City of Dust Facebook page for information about the construction of the shrine. Something might just pop up. Who knows?


syn707 said...


Yes I found those court proceedings as well. And with the death of Fr. Aull. Of course I would be EXTREMELY pleased if you could post that information. I feel like a total dummy, duhhh, you mentioned your face book page and it never dawned on me to view it...I will now!,,

I have a person on FB who has a list of those involved in the building of the shrine. But still no date.

My research partner has found more info documenting Fr. Aull’s entry in New Mexico.

I have several people I will be calling this week to see what they know. Now, onto your FB page

jmhouse said...

Okay, Robert, I've posted a photo of St. Anthony's Mission Catholic Church on the City of Dust FB page along with a question about the shrine. I didn't add much information to the description because I find it interesting to see what people come up with on their own. No leading the witness!

The post on Facebook is HERE. We'll see what we get!


syn707 said...

John, follows no the blog on FB.....

Saw the last bus to my Fierro Page and my videos....THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

REGARDING FRANK RAMIREZ’ BOK, ‘REMEMBERING FIERRO’ I found out there are still about 75 copies available for purchase thru the Silver City Museum Store.

Apparently, the most recent edition, ‘Remembering Fierro - Again’, was edited by friends and associates of Mr. Ramirez. When she ne of them passed away, the remaining books were given to person. She has worked out an arrangement with the museum. There is a number on their website but you have to call From Thursday onwards and ask for Melody in the Bookstore.

Here is the link.

jmhouse said...

Thanks for the info regarding Frank Ramirez's "Remembering Fierro," Robert! I bet some people have been looking high and low for that book!


syn707 said...

Ugh! Just saw my last message. I promise to read what I’ve written in the future before I send it out.

John, are you the only “Admn” here? I ask, because I see there are several people n the FB Page. Just being nosy.

I have talked to sooooo many people. Maybe some you might know.

jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

Yup, I am the only admin here. I'm the only admin at the City of Dust Facebook page, too. So, there's no one else to blame but me! Perhaps you were just seeing some other commenters over at FB.

Best, JM

syn707 said...


After talking to many distant relatives, and pretty much anyone who has had a ‘brush’ with Fierro.No one seems to truly remember when the grotto behind St. Anthony’s was built.

We know when Father Aull passed away, many or all of his belongings were given, or taken, according to a paper, to local churches. A newspaper states the all of his records were given to St. Vincent’s de Paul church in Silver City. However, my coresearcher emailed them and was told, the church in Bayard would have them.

I called Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bayard who was very interested in my quest but they did not have the records and St. Vincent’s should have them. She asked to put me on hold as there was someone volunteering who was from a Fierro. Lo and behold, it was a relative of mine! I’m hoping they can give me a contact name at St. Vincent’s.

Because I found a photo on a website from Chile of an exact duplicate of the Pieta statue in Fierro, I wrote to them a month ago. I just
received a reply. I am curious to get your opinion from on it. I’ll post a translation here later today

syn707 said...

Jim, not

Early in my searching for information about the Fierro grotto and statue, I found a photo of the exact same statue on a Chilean website. The photo is in a book about religious art. I messaged this site a month ago and just received a reply.

I’d love to ke any opinion you might arrive at. I translated it using Google.

Dear Roberto
Nice to say hello, my name Claudio Díaz, I'm an Art Historian and I write you on the recommendation of the Corporation of Religious and Cultural Heritage of Chile, due to an e-mail you sent last month asking for a letter from Justin Sanson that appears in our book and that is very similar to the old mining town of Fierro in New Mexico.
The text of our book is found in the Church of the Precious Blood in Santiago de Chile and dates from 1869. It is a beautiful polychrome copy of a sculpture to which Sanson made several copies, and it is apparently one of his sculptures most celebrated, as he won a prize for her in Paris in 1868.
There is also a marble copy which was presented in Paris in 1878.
Regarding the original model, it is found in France, in the Saint Jean Baptiste de Nemours Church.
The most valuable thing is that both the New Mexico example and the one that exists here in Santiago are original copies signed by the author, which increases the patrimonial and cultural value of these pieces, making them an important part of the temples that guard them and more even possessing a historical wealth necessary to preserve for future generations.
Thank you very much for writing us from the United States and for being interested in our work, and congratulations for the video you have shared with us, as it reflects the cultural richness of Fierro and things in common with the heritage we have here in Chile, which makes the academic exchange and knowledge, even more being an area of ​​history in which there are still many gaps.
Best regards
Claudio Díaz Vial
Degree in History
Master History of Art
Master in Management of Cultural Heritage (c)

jmhouse said...

Hi Robert,

Nah, you got it right before--I'm John! I just came up with a confusing abbreviation for my full name (jmhouse).

Anyway, that letter is very interesting, as well as quite gracious. Does the statue have a signature? Actually...who is the original sculptor of this particular Pietà? I don't think I've come across that information before.

Well, I have to say that I'm impressed that the road to Fierro has now led you to Chile!

Thanks for the update, and please continue to keep us posted! JM

syn707 said...


I don't know if the Pieta is signed. Supposedly it is. I'll have to wait until my Silver City partner can return and take a look.

On the base, the artist's name is stamped along with the year the original bronze one was made.

The artist is Justin C. Sanson. He was quite productive but the statue was considered to be his best work by far.

He was born in Paris, France in 1833 and died in 1910. He first made a bronze statue, the a couple of years later a marble version. As this time, I am only aware two copies. One in Fierro, and the other either in Chile or Spain; both are made of wood and painted. I assume he was involved somehow in the making of the copies either as a consultant, or he contracted with them and the are considered his creations. That is what I am trying to find out via the gentleman who wrote that letter to me. As you may imagine, I fired off another email to him immediately asking if I could present some questions.

The workshop that made it is in Spain. I found them on Facebook but their pages states that they closed their shop due to rising rent prices. But I messaged them anyway but so far, no reply.

We, my co-conspirator and I now trying to find a paper trail to see when the statue entered the United States and where it has been. Because the artist's creation is significant, there should be records. At the same time, we are trying to find the records of Father Aull who owned the Pieta and had it presumably in Central, NM at his chapel complex. There is a newspaper articl that states when Father Aull died, his artifacts were given to churches and that his records were given to the St. Vincents De Paul church. They were emailed to see if the records could be viewed but were told that Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bayard had them. I called the church and they said St. Vincent's should have them. The sweet lady asked me to hold and that there was a lady who volunteered there at the church who was Fierro. It turned out to be a family member and I had already talked to her sister who is a caretaker for St. Anthony's church....what a journey this has been.